This week I sat down with our supervising sound editor, Tess, to talk about an important topic she feels all sound editors could use a refresher on or learn about for the first time. What do you do if your sound library doesn’t have a specific sound you are looking for? Where do you start? Let’s dive right in!

Cash Register

The example I’m gonna use for this blog is a cash register. What happens if you’re looking for the sound effects of a clunky antique cash register but you only have newer electronic cash register files in your library? It can be tough not knowing how to go about it and you’re looking and looking in your library and you just can’t find exactly what you want. Here’s some helpful tips on how to go about it for this example:

  • Start with the obvious by looking up cash register files in your library. If you can’t find anything, try referencing a Youtube clip of an antique cash register like this one. That way you can listen for the different elements and try to see what else sounds like these elements. In the hyperlink above, let’s say you start by listening for the sounds of the buttons. The buttons also sound like the buttons of a typewriter. Try typing that into your library next. Maybe the metal clank of it opening sounds like a ratchet. Keep trying different things. Be creative!

  • When you start searching for different elements in your library, your search results will give you hints on what to look up next. Be sure to look at the labeling of the sounds and listen to help with the next steps of your search. If a sound doesn’t fit, keep diving deeper into your search.

  • Going off the last point, look up different synonyms and variations of what you’re looking for. For example, don’t just look up metal, try typing in “appliances.” Don’t just look up big, try “heavy.”

  • You can record what you’re looking for but your resources might not allow you to do so. Not everyone has an antique cash register laying around… You could record some elements you found after searching the library that sound like the cash register, though!

  • Know your library/search engine. We use Soundminer, which uses the Boolean method for the search engine. This is “a type of search allowing users to combine keywords with operators (or modifiers) such as AND, NOT and OR to further produce more relevant results” (thanks Google). If you’re searching in Soundminer for “metal” and let’s say you get results showing stuff for metal music such as an electric guitar, you could put “-guitar” in the search bar and it will get rid of all the guitar files of your search. Another example is if you type “lion, bear” this would give you lion OR bear files because of the comma instead of searching “lion and bear” and it will give you files that have both lion and bear in the file name.

  • NEVER admit that you can’t find something in the library. If someone is listening to your cash register build, make it as believable as if you just took one recording of a real antique cash register.

Cash Register Build

Tess created this cool cash register build for our example and below is also a list of all the elements she used!


  • Typewriter Keystrokes (for the buttons)

  • Camera Shutter (mechanics)

  • Slide Projector (mechanics)

  • Vending Machine (mechanics)

  • Gun Cock (ca-ching bell)

  • Telephone Ring (ca-ching bell)

  • Small Brass Bell (ca-ching bell)

  • Door Knob Rattle (drawer release)

  • Rolling Metal Chair (drawer release)

  • Bicycle Kick Stand (drawer release)

  • Rock Hitting a Car Bumper (drawer release)

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!